chanel: 50 posts

Chanel Gabrielle : Perfume Review

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After years of waiting for Chanel’s next big launch, here comes Gabrielle. “A rebel at heart…passionate and free,” exalted the press release, using words like radiant, sparkling, luminous and “purely feminine.” Although Coco Chanel was a talented individual and a major force in fashion, as a personality I don’t find her all that appealing. But then again, it wasn’t the first time the brand relied on the designer’s charisma to cast a spell. Coco, one of the most baroque and elegant perfumes of the 1980s, used Gabrielle Chanel’s nickname and an image of her reclining in her Coromandel-decorated salon. So what’s wrong with Gabrielle?

One fundamental thing. Unlike its namesake, Gabrielle the perfume doesn’t aim for originality. Gabrielle is a shadow of Coco Mademoiselle, with less personality, less character and less presence. Take Coco Mademoiselle, remove all of the bling and earthy bit of patchouli, put it through a laundry cycle with white musks, garnish it with a few white florals—and here you go, Gabrielle.

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Chanel, Caron and Guerlain in Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita

“The first time I encountered a perfume that beguiled me was in the pages of a book. The sultry red-haired witch in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita enticed women with the promise of “Guerlain, Chanel No 5, Mitsouko, Narcisse Noir, evening gowns, cocktail dresses…” It would be some years before I smelled these perfumes, yet their names left a “baffling but seductive” imprint, just as the novel suggested.”

In my recent FT column, Revisiting Three Perfume Classics, I write about the three legendary perfumes that left their “baffling but seductive” trace in literature and history. They are Chanel No 5, Guerlain Mitsouko and Caron Narcisse Noir. Bulgakov started writing his novel in 1928 and worked on it until his death in 1940. The reason he selected these three perfumes as the lure for the black magic show was because they embodied glamour.

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Three Ultimate Iris Perfumes

Once, as I was telling Maurice Roucel how much I loved his Iris Silver Mist, a perfume he created for Serge Lutens, he laughed and explained that Lutens kept asking again and again for more iris, so he ended up using all the iris aromatics in the catalogue of his company and essentially “mixing them together.” Roucel can be refreshingly self-deprecating about his work, but I knew that achieving the precise harmony of Iris Silver Mist took much more than just blending all irises in sight. For me, it evokes the cool, frozen beauty of this complex note in a way that few other iris perfumes can.

In my recent FT column, I examine three iris classics, describing what makes them compelling and memorable. Above all, iris as an ingredient deserves attention because it’s one of the most layered, rich but difficult materials available to perfumers.

The first time I smelled iris essence, I stood for a few minutes with a perfume blotter under my nose before I regained my senses. In an instant it conjured up frozen petals and snow-covered trees, and while this image of a winter garden was vivid, I couldn’t easily describe the fragrance. It was like nothing I had encountered before, and pinning down its radiant but surprisingly potent scent proved difficult. To continue, please click here.

What are your ultimate iris perfumes?

The Shifting Contexts of Perfume

Could other factors, apart from the aroma itself, influence our perception of perfume? Yes, of course, and this is not limited to fragrance. Elisa explores the topic.

A few years ago, I went to a nearby wine shop to stock up for a weekend in the mountains with some old college friends. A representative from a local winery intercepted me in the red blends aisle and implored me to try a bottle of his family’s wine. Colorado is not known for its vineyards, but I went along in the spirit of adventure, bonhomie, and perhaps a touch of pity.

When we got to the mountains, I warned my friends (occasional wine snobs) that I couldn’t vouch for the quality of the local wine. Since we were all sure it would be bad, we saved it until the end of dinner, a couple of bottles in. When we finally opened and tasted it, we were blown away—it was utterly unusual, with the complexity and creaminess of a good Bordeaux but some additional, unplaceable quirk that made it compulsively drinkable. I was sad when it was gone.

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Chanel No 5 L’Eau : Fragrance Review

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Although sometimes I’m prone to romanticizing the golden days of perfumery–that vague time in the past when regulations and profitability didn’t shape the industry the way they do today, I’m not a traditionalist. Tastes change, and I don’t expect that young people today want to wear only fragrances created 100 years ago, just as the children of those whose wear Lancôme La Vie est Belle and Bleu de Chanel might reject their parents’ choices. Yes, a day of “vintage” La Vie est Belle will come. This is why I don’t object to the reworks of classics, such as Chanel No. 5 L’Eau, provided that the brand keeps the original intact and interprets the “young and trendy” theme in an interesting manner.

chanel 5eau

L’Eau is an attempt by Chanel to draw a younger, trendier audience to No. 5. Although I smell enough of No. 5 on women in their twenties in Paris and notice its constant presence in the top 10 best sellers, it is still somewhat of a cult favorite. L’Eau goes for wider appeal.

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